Cosmin Costinas on Wed, 6 May 2009 15:26:27 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-ro] Sustinere Sala Rekalde


Dear colleague,

From the plurality and diversity of the art world, we have followed â initially with concern and later with mounting indignation â the news of the dismissal of Pilar Mur, director of Sala Rekalde in Bilbao, Spain ( and the news stories questioning the programme of this public exhibition space. Sala Rekalde, under the directorship of Pilar Mur since 2001 and with curators Chus MartÃnez (2002 to 2005) and Leire Vergara (2006 to today), has offered a consistent programme of exhibitions and publications, dedicated to the work of important Basque and international contemporary art practitioners, that has made Rekalde an art exhibition space of reference in the Basque Country, Spain and internationally. The dismissal of Mur by the Culture Department of the Provice of Biscay, as a result of her criticism of the Culture Departmentâs decision to exclude a work of political content from the free-submission exhibition
 Ertibil-2008, endangers Rekaldeâs invaluable contribution to contemporary art and culture in general. This dismissal comes together with a media campaign in which Sala Rekalde has been criticised for its recent showcasing of Basque conceptual art, the lack of âtalentâ of the artists exhibited, and the programmeâs alleged proximity to sectors of the radical left that are said to have politicised its programme.

We believe that this criticism of the work made by the Sala Rekalde team during the last 15 years and their ongoing and occasional collaborators is gratuitous and ungrounded. Our concern for this turn of events becomes even greater when considering this is not an isolated issue, but part of a general regression in cultural policies in Spain.

In order to make a public declaration against this course of events, we have decided to circulate the attached text. Anyone wishing to support our declaration can do so by sending their name with their profession and institutional association in brackets to the following address:

This text, together with the signatures collected, will be sent to the Culture Representative of the Provincial Council of Biscay, as well as to the Basque and Spanish media.

Please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in supporting this initiative. Many thanks.
Sala Rekalde: Contemporary Art and Public Responsibility

Our concern over the recent press articles regarding the dismissal of the director of Sala Rekalde has turned into indignation and insult because of the way these articles have become a media campaign aimed at discrediting the galleryâs programme and, at the same time, the very idea of contemporary art as a space of critical reflection. The alibi that appears to justify this disdain for contemporary art is the idea that the evaluation of art is something relative, if not arbitrary, and that it can be measured in terms of quantifiable popularity. In contemporary art there are mechanisms of analysis, debate, consolidation and validation as legitimate and specialised as in any other space of knowledge or cultural production.

There are necessarily opinions that are in open opposition in the analysis and debate that validates art, because art is a field where permanent critique of the methods and discourses of validation is an essential condition. It is therefore not only legitimate but also desirable to subject the galleryâs program and the parameters of success that have made it relevant to criticism. But a minimum of rigour must also be demanded of this criticism. The worth of the program carried out by Sala Rekalde in recent years is a verifiable fact, confirmed and endorsed by many of the most outstanding national and international organisations and professionals in the field of art.

Perhaps it is necessary to recall that centres like Sala Rekalde occupy a place where critical activity produces the discursive reality that feeds the whole framework of contemporary culture. These centres are dedicated to âcultural productionâ, unlike other types of centres that are more directed towards that of âcultural consumptionâ. The notions of âproductionâ and âconsumptionâ demand very different dynamics from the spectator, and because of this it is inappropriate to try to evaluate the social efficacy of Sala Rekalde on the basis of statistical criteria that compare its number of visitors with those of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum or the Guggenheim-Bilbao. It is inappropriate because each of these centres responds to radically different dynamics and aims. Besides, from where would the artists come for those institutions dedicated to cultural consumption, if not from places of experimental production â which necessarily hold a
 more minority interest?

It is therefore such âproductionâ and its structure that should be evaluated: does society require structures of production such as that described, or, on the contrary, should it exclusively concentrate on promoting policies that giving incentive to consumption, whether cultural or otherwise? If we adopt an all-encompassing view of culture â something that can be demanded of those responsible for cultural policy â we cannot ignore the importance of this type of production for the health of the whole system. A cultural policy that favours an experimental form of production places itself at the service of a social system in constant change, where diversity is the essential foundation, because the system lives and regenerates itself through the constant production of differences.

To contextualise this whole process within the parameters of an ideological polemic â through the allusion to work withdrawn from the Ertibil competition last year â is deceiving and it demagogically anathematises the idea of art as critical practice. It is also ironic that the Ertibil competition does not form part of the galleryâs programme, but is housed by it on the initiative of the Culture Department of the Provincial Council of Biscay.

What we are once again confronted with behind this operation of discredit is the fragility of the public cultural structures in the face of political opportunity or media irresponsibility. This fragility will remain endemic until codes of good practice of international standards are set and applied in the field of the visual arts, guaranteeing that professionals can carry out their activity, which will be duly examined and evaluated by expert opinion. This is one of the central questions in a debate that has been put off for too long and that hangs over cultural policies.

From what has been said above, and facing the climate generated by the dismissal of the director of Sala Rekalde â a dismissal that has still not been made official â we call on the Culture Representative of the Provincial Council of Biscay to make a gesture of amends. This gesture must dispel any doubt about the professionalism and worth of the program carried out in Sala Rekalde and about the art community as a professional area of knowledge that in its extreme plurality maintains an unquestionable seriousness and demonstrable prestige. At the same time, we reaffirm our position of total disagreement with the placing in danger of a space of contemporary production, of which there are so few. In this respect, the signatories below, together with a broad group of professionals, are working on a declaration from the art sector that we will shortly make public.

This document, signed by professionals representing different fields and sensibilities in the art sector, is being circulated to gather support from the national and international artistic community. To give your support or for any enquiries, please email

Nettime-ro mailing list